The very mention of the word “drone” often conjures up images of autonomous machines cruising over battlefields, but that’s far from the future 3D Robotics has in store for its own aerial machines. And thanks a recent infusion of capital, that future may be closer than you think.
3D Robotics announced earlier today that it locked up a $30 million Series B round, with a list of participants that includes Foundry Group, True Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, and SK Ventures.
The company previously closed a $5 million round last December that featured many of those same names, and at the time CEO (and former Wired EiC) Chris Anderson said the infusion of funds would be used to open and staff a then-new San Francisco office. Another crucial component of the 3DR growth story was to launch a new website, flesh out the community experience, and developer and a new slew of products meant to make “drones and other aerial robotics technology easier, more powerful and cheaper”.
There’s been plenty of progress made on that final front too as the 3D Robotics portfolio is now comprised of a single plane-style drone and four copter drones. The newest of addition to the lineup? The Iris, a $720 drone that can be controlled with ease from a PC or an Android device (as long as you have the corresponding app) that can also follow paths “drawn” on an on-screen map thanks its built-in GPS. While Anderson and the rest of the team have spent the past year trying to more effectively court hobbyists and DIY drone buffs, the company’s ambitions hinge on proving that drone’s have plenty of commercial value as well.
Anderson gave the Financial Times a clearer view of the wildly varying fields that he thinks 3D Robotics’ drones can disrupt, and all of the usual suspects are accounted for. Remotely controlled drones can make for cheaper, more effective search and rescue operations, as well as hyperlocal deliveries (I personally can’t wait for someone to put together a fleet of tacocopters.
Perhaps the most curious application is in agriculture, in which farmers and ranchers could remotely keep tabs on the all their land and livestock without having to trudge into the fields themselves.